Hopkins considers educator from Fla. Former JHU provost emerges as contender for president's post

November 19, 1995|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

University of Florida President John V. Lombardi, who told associates yesterday that he has decided to seek a similar post elsewhere, has emerged as a finalist to become president of the Johns Hopkins University.

Morris W. Offit, chairman of Hopkins' trustees, said yesterday afternoon that members of a search committee charged with replacing former Hopkins President William C. Richardson had spoken to Dr. Lombardi several times. "He's certainly served Johns Hopkins with distinction," Mr. Offit said of Dr. Lombardi, a former Hopkins administrator. "John is certainly a short-list candidate."

An announcement is expected by the end of January, Mr. Offit said.

Dr. Lombardi, a historian, is no stranger to intrigues in Baltimore. From 1987 to 1990 he was Hopkins' provost, or chief academic officer, and briefly led the school after the resignation of then-President Steven Muller.

But several faculty members interviewed credited him primarily with balancing Dr. Muller's big-picture perspective with a fiscal responsibility that led to campuswide budget cuts.

Yesterday morning, Dr. Lombardi told members of the private University of Florida Foundation that he hoped to leave the campus, today's editions of the Gainesville Sun reported. Foundation members told the newspaper that Dr. Lombardi said he felt he had lost the trust of the Florida university system's regents.

Through a UF spokeswoman, Dr. Lombardi confirmed that he had been interviewed for the Hopkins post. This summer, according to published reports, he maintained he would stay at Florida "until hell freezes over."

But Dr. Lombardi and the Florida system's regents clashed frequently over whether the campus would be allowed to set its own policy, independent of the system. Several weeks ago, the regents' chairman, quickly backed by the full board, wrote a missive telling him to play by the same rules as other campuses or leave town. Dr. Lombardi's comments indicated he would follow the second option.

"Based on the communications I've received from the board of regents. I felt it would be prudent of me to explore any viable opportunity," he said in a statement released through a spokeswoman.

Interim Hopkins President Daniel Nathans, a Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist who has become a campus favorite, said he is not a candidate for the job. Hopkins Provost Joseph Cooper, who announced his resignation last week, said he was not being considered.

Any new president at Hopkins will face three major challenges:

* Ensuring that the Republican-led Congress does not stanch the flow of dollars from Washington to Baltimore.

* Navigating the transition of one of a premier academic medical research complexes into the world of managed care.

* Completing the $900 million fund-raising initiative unveiled less than a year ago.

According to the way the National Science Foundation tracks spending on research and development, Hopkins routinely gets more funding on such activity than any other university in the nation. By contrast, the University of Florida ranks 44th in research and development for the year ending June 30, 1994.

The University of Florida's campus at Gainesville, with 39,000 students, is comparable to the University of Maryland College Park. Dr. Lombardi has been praised for raising the stature of the school and for guiding it in his first year on campus through the anguish of a series of campus slayings.

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